Wolfgang Petritsch: Solution for Kosovo and Serbia, without the US and Russia

Wolfgang Petritsch: Solution for Kosovo and Serbia, without the US and Russia
Wolfgang Petritsch
 Wolfgang Petritsch - Austrian diplomat - talks about the possibility of final settlement of Kosovo's status and Kosovo-Serb relations. Petritsch does not rule out the possibility of border changes - if the parties agree.

Deutsche Welle: Mr. Petritsch, EU Commissioner Johannes Hahn said that a big determination is needed to solve the problems in relations between Kosovo and Serbia. But Kosovo's status remains a major problem. How can this problem be resolved and are you sure the solution can be found in the coming months?

Wolfgang Petritsch: Almost a year ago, in Spring and Summer of the last year, I was very committed to push forward the idea of ​​two presidents (Thaci and Vucic), who apparently are ready for peaceful compromise, for a great historic compromise between Serbs and Albanians. I do not think we have to accept all the proposals. But Germany is suddenly against to such an agreement, though a Berlin representative has been from the start at the Federica Mogherini's team and has apparently supported its strategy from the beggining. Now, Germany, Mrs Merkel, says: We do not want to.

I need to interrupt you: Do you say there are ideas of the two presidents, which should be supported or not? But the broad opinion does not know what of that idea means. Is this really the idea of ​​partitioning of Kosovo, or exchanging territories? What is the word for?

Unfortunately this is a problem because the broad opinion is not included. I think this is a big problem for Brussels, Belgrade and Pristina. I think that Brussels would be able to hold an open dialogue on the possibility of reaching a compromise. Precisely because in Bruskel it is decided that there are no red lines, that it is also possible also the exchange of territories, so it should be played with open letters. I do not think this is the best solution of all the solutions. But in the current circumstances, there is no better solution. There are always only difficult compromises that need to be achieved in order to calm the situation. Look at what has happened in the last few days and how fast the emotions can lead to tensions. Things can not go on like this. In essence, I thought and I think the EU does not have much time. Both sides need to enter to a broad process, similar to Dayton or Oslo, where they agreed on a compromise. While the existing opportunities are known for years.

Earlier you criticized the Germany because will not accept the change of boundaries. How do you see Mrs Merkel's and Macron's initiative for the meetings in Berlin and Paris? Does this mean that the parties are leaving EU projects or is it just their continuity?

I am afraid that this is one of those initiatives that we have seen before in various constellations and which unfortunately do not bring success. If just a few days after the Berlin Conference we have a situation like this now in the north of Kosovo, then I have to say that the Berlin meeting has not been successful. I suspect that of Paris will be better.

How would you achieve this issue, as there are different ideas? You yourself know that the ideas of territories exchange or changing the boundaries are very dangerous. There are also people who talk about new incidents, new wars ...

No doubt there are many risks, but they must be part of negotiations and compromises. I propose now to organize something like dialogue plus.

What does this mean?

Both of them (presidents Thaci and Vucic) should not meet only once a month or rarely. The EU should invite both sides for intensive discussions to resolve this issue, in Brussels or elsewhere. I think I can invite them to Vienna, where parties in a very intensive negotiating process would overcome differences and contradictions, and find the best solution based on the proposals that exist on the table.

You're actually talking about a new Dayton, but in the European frameworks, right?

Absolutely. This should be a European solution. I do not want Washington or Moscow to be present in this process. Ultimately this is a European problem, so the solution must be found in Europe. So I think this process needs to be developed in Europe.

But you are clear that Serbia and Kosovo do not want the decisions to be taken without Russia and the United States of America.

Both sides should say: We want a European solution. After all, the two countries want to become part of the European Union. This means that Europe's interests must be in the foreground. This must be understood by both parties.

A few days ago in the north of Kosovo there was a police action, which has caused severe reactions, even violence and gunshot wounds. Are you afraid of escalating the situation in Kosovo?

First, I have to say that the circumstances need to be clarified on how to come to this action, which was excessive. And of course, the arrested persons should be brought to justice. In a time when we know of what kind of disponibility we have in the field, I think it is imperative that the UN and the EU, which are present in Kosovo, carefully observe this process, this judicial process, so that things are really clear up to the end.

Petrisch, Belgrade has sought tax evasion, while Pristina has rejected this request. How can the dialogue continue in these conditions?

I am convinced that the parties must meet certain conditions.


Naturally, in the first place, it is about Pristina and the Government there. We know that tax attitudes are different. But I think the situation is very clear: Taxes should be suspended to start a meaningful dialogue. This is the precondition. And then we need to talk about real solutions to the problems and not just about separate measures, which seem more like an excessive feedback.

Yes, but the Prime Minister Haradinaj has stated that the introduction of the tax prevents the idea of ​​separating Kosovo or exchanging territories. People are frightened of this idea, because the idea can be dangerous for countries in the region as well.

In the negotiations for the final solution you have to be open. You have to start from the fact that the Brussels dialogue has prepared some details, at least on paper, not formally and that there has been progress in the five-year dialogue. These advances are the basis for finding the ultimate solution. All the others that have happened in the meantime are unilateral actions, which must be withdrawn. So even the 100% tax.

If Serbia and Kosovo really agree to change the borders, why should the Republika Srpska remain in Bosnia and Herzegovina if the principle of changing the external borders of the present states is accepted?

Here I can cite the President of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Zeljko Komšić, who says that there is no link between B-H and the situation in Kosovo. Why? Because if Kosovo's borders change through a negotiation process, then this is a result accepted by both sides. While Dodik in Sarajevo has no partner with whom he could negotiate for such a solution. The international norms should therefore be applied, according to which the agreements for changing the external borders between sovereign states can only be done by consensus.

First, there is no consensus in Bosnia. And secondly, it is very important to say that Bosnia exists within the limits set forth in the Dayton Agreement. This international agreement has enabled the creation of Republika Srpska and any attempt by the Serbian side to change the Bosnian border would automatically mean the loss of Republika Srpska's international status. This has to be taken into account because there is little thought for this matter.

How do you think Republika Srpska could lose its status?

Because the Dayton Agreement sets the international borders accepted by Belgrade and Zagreb. So the two decisive powers are the guarantee of the Dayton Accords and they are obliged to recognize their signatures.

Do you therefore think that changing the borders in Kosovo would not result in changing the borders to other countries in the region?

That's right. If you look a little better, these are two different things and really should be looked at as separate things. Unfortunately, even diplomats and politicians dealing with these issues often forget that these things have been deployed 25 years ago in Dayton. While the only open issue remains the border between Kosovo and Serbia. Two parties are required to solve this problem. The European guarantees for recognizing the border between Kosovo and Serbia are also required for the recognition of borders between the two sides. In addition, borders must be guaranteed and supported by all - Belgrade, Zagreb, Sarajevo, Washington, Moscow and Brussels.

But at Belin's Summit, apart from President Vucic and President Thaci, all others have been opposed to the possibility of changing external borders and divisions. Do you still think this is possible?

No, no ... I'm not asking this question at all. This is irrelevant.

Okay, but?

I repeat: I want to give priority to the solution agreed upon by both parties. The "Compromise" is an unknown word in the Balkans. Here for the first time we would have reached a compromise reached and signed by two presidents, achieved hard but by peaceful path. Viewed historically, the boundaries have always changed by military means.

While in Bosnia-Herzegovina's example we have the Dayton agreement, with which one party is not identified, even after 25 years. The international community, Europe, should learn the lessons out of  this. We want a solution for Kosovo, we want a compromise to be accepted by both sides. 
Wolfgang Petritsch: Solution for Kosovo and Serbia, without the US and Russia Wolfgang Petritsch: Solution for Kosovo and Serbia, without the US and Russia Saturday, June 01, 2019 Rating: 5
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